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SEMA 2017: New Classic Defenders and Land Cruisers

Kamil Kaluski October 31, 2017 SEMA 10 Comments

Retro-modding or throwback designs are all the rage now. Take an older, classic, vehicle and upgrade everything to modern standards and you get something really cool. It’s been done with American muscle cars, Porsches, and now classic 4x4s are becoming more and more popular. Two of the makers of these cool vehicles showed up at SEMA with their latest designs. The FJ Company brought a modernized 1981 FJ43 Land Cruiser and East Coast Defender brought a custom wide-body 1985 Land Rover Defender. 

Click for the details on each of those awesome 4x4s. 

Browse The FJ Company website but try to limit yourself to a fixed amount of time. The work they do on FJ20, FJ40, and FJ60 series Land Cruisers is rather amazing. But they don’t limit themselves to that and say that they will work on any Land Cruiser from 1959 to 1992. Everything is custom, obliviously, and engine choices range from a 135hp Toyota 2F Engine to a 240hp Toyata 1GR-FE from a modern 4Runner. Design choices are almost endless, allowing the potential buyer to choose from a very classic look to a modernized one. While the vehicles start off as original Land Cruisers, they end up as basically brand new vehicles. 

For SEMA, The FJ Company brought their newest, and most expensive model, the Signature build. The exterior has been painted in matte Dune Beige and accented with The FJ Company-designed fuel cap cover and side mirrors, which were CNC machined in aluminum and painted in Gunmetal Gray. In particular, the side mirrors blend design elements from the early 40-series mirrors with the larger dimensions and utility of the standard mirrors introduced by Toyota in the mid 70’s. Up front, is a traditional Warn 8274 winch is mounted on a 40-series bumper with a custom fairlead and built-in LED fog lights.

Toyota’s [relatively] modern 4.0L V6 generates an estimated 240 hp and is equipped with Haltech programmable EFI, for a bump in power. To keep with the engine, FOX shocks and Old Man Emu (ARB) leaf springs keep the chassis composed. 2017 Toyota 4Runner 4-wheel disc brakes balance out all of that extra momentum with added stopping power. Inside are heated Recaros and a kick-ass audio system. Check it out at booth #34309.

We have mentioned East Coast Defender several times on this here site. They are to Land Rovers what Singer is to Porsches. They take older Land Rover Defenders and completely overhaul them. The interior receives a complete redo and is modernized. Every suspension nut and bolt is new and a quality lift-kit is optional. Finally, under the hood goes an re-engineered Rover V8 or one of two new Chevy small blocks. 

One of their new 110 Wagon projects, Project Beast, is making a debut at the Warn (the winch maker) display (booth 31059) at SEMA. The LS3-powered (430hp) 1985 Defender was completely rebuilt in 2016. It features a love-it-or-hate-it Kahn wide-body kit, Kahn wheels, and, of course, a Warn winch. It sits on a Terrafirma lift kit and has Tarox Performance brakes are used to stop this beast. The interior features an eight-speaker JBL entertainment package and is finished in rich hand-stitched black leather.

Given FU money I honestly don’t know which of these I’d choose. I have equal-but-separate love for both machines. Each one has pros and cons. If I had real FU money I’d probably buy both. Ironically it would be the FJ in its most modern version and the Defender in its most basic version. They way I see it, the latest updates make the FJ simply better and better looking. But all the options sort of take away from the Defender. In a way this loaded Defender reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG – I’m a purist and it just isn’t my thing. But either The FJ Company or East Coast Defender are willing to build me whatever the hell I’d want in order to separate me from my non-existing FU money. 

  • FJ interior is by far more true to the original character of the car, which is rather a tool than a toy.

  • Alff

    Oblivious customization is the theme of too many Velocity programs.

  • Zentropy

    I love that FJ43 (especially the interior), but the Kahn wide body kit on the LR is awful.

    • outback_ute

      It doesn’t achieve much – they still have flares on the wheel arches, and they could have replaced the riveted on panels with wider versions for a better look.

      I’d go for the LC, because space inside the LR is so poor. It does have coil sprung axles, but that can be done for the LC.

      Is it being picky to say that the LR is not a Defender? That name didn’t come into being until the 1990s after the Discovery was released. Prior to that there was only one Land Rover, so it didn’t need a model name, this vehicle would have been described as a 110 wagon.

      • “Is it being picky to say that the LR is not a Defender?”
        No, it’s finickiness. We embrace it, since we’re fastidious but not pedantic.

        • Alff

          I’m anything but fastidious. Precise is apt.

  • caltemus

    I wish someone would weld a steel roof onto a JKU wrangler and take out the cage. We could have the perfect homegrown safari rig but nobody has done it.

  • Christopher Tracy

    The inside of the Land Rover says to me that I’m looking inside a G-wagen. I enjoyed the utilitarianism of the FJ.